What is a credit report?
First and foremost it’s important to be clear on what a credit report is. This report details your credit history, and is created by the national consumer credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
A credit report is a key document that’s used to apply for loans and other types of credit, such as a mortgage or a car loan. In addition, there are some employers that may even request it before deciding whether to hire someone for a position. The credit bureaus provide the information from your credit report to lenders or employers so that they can evaluate the appropriateness of granting you the loan or the job.
Keep in mind - All three national credit bureaus typically charge for your credit reports. However, thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you can request a free copy of your credit report from each of the credit bureaus every 12 months.
Why is it important to review my credit report?
Your credit report helps you understand your current chances of reaching your financial goal (e.g. acquiring a loan) as well as which areas may need improvement. This understanding and opportunity for action is crucial because potential creditors use your credit report to determine what they’ll offer you. To be more precise, they use your credit report to determine:
- The amount of money they’re willing to loan you
- The interest rate they’ll charge
- If you pay your bills on time
- If you’ve ever been sued
- If you’ve ever filed for bankruptcy
Keep in mind: Ensuring your credit report is accurate is very important, and being able to check it allows you to detect errors or inaccuracies, as well as verify if you’ve been the victim of identity theft. Reiterating just how very important it is that you check your credit report at least three times a year.
Where can I access my free annual credit report?
There are a number of ways to access your free credit report. Below we’ve outlined the top three ways:
You can get access to your free credit report instantly by going online to annualcreditreport.com. The site was created by the three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. It’s a highly secure website, your data is safe using this service. They use best-in-class SSL encryption to keep all your information safe from hackers.
If you’re more comfortable making the request by phone, no problem! You can also call the Annual Credit Report number at 1-877-322-8228 and get your free credit report.
You can also request your free credit report by mail. This takes approximately 15 days from when the agency receives your information and sends out your report. If this method works best for you, you can set it up by filling out this form, and sending it to the following address:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
When to request your annual credit report
You have two options: you can request all three reports at the same time, or you can request one report per agency at a time, allowing a few months to elapse between each request. The advantage of the first option is that you can compare the results of each agency in real time. On the other hand, the advantage of the second option is that you can check your credit report results throughout the year (every four months, for example), and thus monitor for possible improvements.
Keep in mind: Be aware that there may be some differences between each credit bureau's free credit reports. This is because each bureau calculates their results based on slightly different data and using different algorithms.
What to do if you find an error in your credit report
As soon as you receive your free credit report you should review it carefully for errors or inaccuracies that could affect your credit history and your chances of accessing loans, insurance, or jobs.
If you find an error, it’s important that you report it as quickly as possible. To do so, you can use this sample letter that will help report such errors. Once completed, you’ll need to send the letter along with the supporting documentation to the appropriate credit reporting agency. You can find the contact information for the three credit bureaus by phone or via their websites:
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742 - www.experian.com
- TransUnion: 1-800-916-8800 - www.transunion.com
- Equifax: 1-800-685-1111 - www.equifax.com
Keep in mind: Under the FCRA, both the credit bureau and the information provider are required to correct errors and inaccurate or incomplete information on your credit report for free. Note that if you find repeated errors on your credit report after they have been reported in writing, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Get your credit report today!
We hope this guide was helpful and that you feel confident you can request your free credit report easily. Remember that by law each of the national credit bureaus must offer you at least one free credit report per year. Don’t hesitate to use this service.And if you need a bank to entrust the money for the loans you request, consider opening a PODERcard account.